Curse of the Specter Queen by by Jenny Elder Moke
Samantha Knox put away her childish fantasies of archaeological adventure the day her father didn’t return home from the Great War, retreating to the safety of the antique bookshop where she works. But when a mysterious package arrives with a damaged diary inside, Sam’s peaceful life is obliterated. Ruthless men intent on reclaiming the diary are after Sam, setting her and her best friend, along with her childhood crush, on a high-stakes adventure that lands them in the green hills outside Dublin, Ireland. Here they discover an ancient order with a dark purpose – to perform an occult ritual that will raise the Specter Queen, the Celtic goddess of vengeance and death, to bring about a war unlike any the world has ever seen. To stop them, Sam must solve a deviously complex cipher – one that will lead her on a treasure hunt to discover the ancient relic at the heart of the ritual: a bowl carved from the tree of life. Will she find the bowl and stop the curse of the Specter Queen, or will the ancient order bring about the end of the world?
Samantha is a smart and determined young woman. And when she sees a problem that she can help with, nothing will stand in her way. Her character develops a lot through the course of the story as well, which I loved. She started out as timid and a bit of a pushover. But by the end, she’s taking control and coming into her own. The story is mysterious and exciting, with plenty of fun surprises along the way – even if one big reveal was fairly predictable. The characters are engaging and the plot is full of intrigue, suspense, a doomsday cult, and even a bit of fantasy. This is a fantastic new YA fantasy set in the 1920s with a strong female lead. And I really hope it’s picked up for a series.